Nobody says that spending periods of time alone with your thoughts is an amazing tool for personal growth. This is not surprising, as we live in a society that is addicted to constant doing.
Spending time alone carries much stigma and is attached to negative connotations. It is commonly viewed as something to be avoided at all costs. However, my experience over the past few years with solitude has taught me otherwise.
Today we are bombarded with more information than any other time in history with the advent of the internet, social media and smartphones.
Social media is undoubtedly a great tool which helps us to stay connected with others. However, it has created a culture that is focused on the lives of others. It’s disconnecting us from ourselves more than ever before since an increasing amount of our time and attention is directed outward instead of on ourselves.
Moreover, spending time by ourselves has become increasingly difficult because of our smartphones which provide a constant source of amusement by swiping in any direction. It has made us a slave to constant stimulation, to the point that being alone by ourselves can become an uncomfortable experience.
A recent study conducted by the University Of Virginia found that many participants chose to give themselves electric shocks rather than to be alone with their thoughts for 6-15 minutes.
On the other hand, what positive impact can solitude possibly have on us? Read on to find out about three powerful ways by which solitude can benefit you.
Clarity and creative thinking
Back in college, I would often walk up and down my terrace at night by myself. Away from spending my time doing something or the other, I began developing a deep liking for solitude. I found I enjoyed spending time by myself as it would surprisingly make me feel good and feel relaxed.
Over time, I discovered that as I spent time in solitude being relaxed and letting my mind wander, I would often tap into a stream of thought that was much more insightful and positive, than my usual thinking. What’s more, ideas would pop into my head and provide me with great clarity and insights with regards to my own life and areas of focus.
When we are caught up in the treadmill of routines, responsibilities and endless distractions day after day, it can be easy to lose sight of what we truly want for ourselves. Moreover, the thinking that occurs when we are engaged in tasks or around others may lack clarity and focus since our mind may easily get distracted.
On the other hand, by spending time by ourselves with no particular agenda, we give our mind the freedom to relax, turn inward, to let thoughts and ideas flow without interruption. It can further help us to sort our priorities, generate better self-awareness, and shed clarity on our desires and talents.
Nikola Tesla, one of the greatest inventors of the 20th century, captures the power of solitude beautifully,
"The mind is sharper and keener in seclusion and uninterrupted solitude. Originality thrives in seclusion free of outside influences beating upon us to cripple the creative mind. Be alone, that is the secret of invention; be alone, that is when ideas are born.”
In fact, scientific research supports his statement and indicates that people who seek solitude are shown to be more creative.
Overcoming limiting behaviours
The more we direct our attention inward, the more we become aware of our limiting thought patterns and behaviours, which can restrict our growth more than any external factor. It is only by becoming aware, can we take the step to change and break free of them.
The vast majority of humanity tends to lead their lives buying into the limiting fear-based beliefs and thinking of society and conform to lead a life like everyone else; losing their originality and creativity in the process. They allow others to think for them and never question the truth or validity of what’s preached by society.
“What will others think?" is the perennial question that often limits the fulfilment of our potential.
Spending time in solitude can encourage us to take action on our thoughts instead of placing excess importance on the opinions of others which may often be the case when our attention is primarily focused on the external world. It helps to detach from the conditioning of the outside world and lead a more authentic life true to ourselves instead of settling to lead a life that is expected and accepted by others.
Being constantly engaged in “doing”, can drain our minds and leave us feeling depleted. Life is not a race. Going at breakneck speed engaged in constant doing, on the lookout for the next fix can eventually take a toll on our mental and physical health.
By pausing and slowing down, we give our mind and body the time to rest and recharge. This can also help us to make better decisions by tuning in and taking action on the voice of our intuition which may otherwise be drowned by the noise of the outside world.
Various studies and research indicate that people who take time out to spend by themselves tend to have better emotional health, increased empathy and higher life satisfaction. Solitude may seem like a luxury for those who are hard-pressed for time, however, studies have shown that solitude boosts productivity.
Spending time in solitude may seem uncomfortable at first because we have trained our minds to be constantly occupied or to seek some form of stimulation. It's considered normal to be constantly doing things, but that doesn't mean it's the most effective way of navigating through life.
Give yourself the gift of 10 minutes, once a day, where you can be by yourself, without phones or any distractions. You may be surprised how doing nothing can help you grow tremendously in a world that worships constant doing.
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